January 27, 2018

ShowbuzzDaily Sundance Film Festival Reviews: “Come Sunday” & “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”


COME SUNDAY (Netflix):  American films that feature religious figures tend to come in two varieties:  the cloying “faith-based” dramas that play quite literally to the choir, and the “edgy” films in which the supposedly pious are revealed to be hypocritical and often evil frauds.  Joshua Marston’s Come Sunday is a rarity, a film that attempts to deal seriously and in an open-minded way with issues of doctrine and faith.  Written by Marcus Hinchey (and based on a This American Life report), it tells the story of Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a bishop in the ministry of Oral Roberts (Martin Sheen) and Roberts’ protege, who lost his mega-church when he came to believe and preach that non-believers were not consigned to eternal hell.  Although not a work of cinematic vision, Come Sunday is admirably fair in its portrayal of all the points of view it presents, following its lead character in expressing compassion even for those who disagree with Pearson, including Roberts and Pearson’s closest professional associate (played by a subdued Jason Segel).  Ejiofor is moving as a man of conflicted and profound values, and Condola Rashad, although playing “the wife,” has a more complex character than that role is usually allowed.  Also notable are Danny Glover, who as Pearson’s uncle opens the door to his nephew’s crisis of faith, and Keith Stanfield as the church organist, who has his own deeply personal reasons for needing to feel that his religion will save him.  Quietly inspiring and earnest, Come Sunday is a film of ideas that is also a compelling story of character.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (no distrib):  The setting of a gay conversion therapy school might seem like the occasion for a film of scorching fury or wild satire, especially as told by a lesbian filmmaker, but director Desiree Akhavan and co-writer Cecelia Frugiuele (working from a novel by Emily M. Danforth) provide a surprisingly nuanced take with The Miseducation of Cameron Post, as much Short Term 12 as But I’m A Cheerleader.  Not that there’s any doubt what the film’s point of view is on the school’s odious actions, but even the story’s chief villain, headmistress Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) is presented as far from stupid, and her brother and co-teacher Rick (John Gallagher, Jr, who was in Short Term 12), a supposedly “reformed” gay man, is as sad as he is a figure of comedy.  Miseducation‘s heart is with its students, especially Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz), her friend who goes by the name Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck), and Cameron’s roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs).  The first three are the school’s rebels, and as Miseducation follows them, it walks in the path of many other stories of secluded private schools and their unwilling pupils, despite its school’s extreme curriculum.  The cast is uniformly excellent, and Akhavan, whose previous film was the micro-budgeted Appropriate Behaviour, proves herself able to provide commercial sheen and pace to a more mainstream project.  This Miseducation is both harrowing and charming, no mean feat.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."